In the heart of Arisaig, the Astley Hall is an old traditional long weatherboarded ceilidh hall, built in 1893 by renowned architect Philip Webb. It was commissioned and gifted to the people of Arisaig by Constance Astley, daughter of the estate owner. Under her patronage there were weaving and carving classes, dancing classes and flower shows. It is still the hub of village life today, though the activities are a little different.
The architect commissioned by Miss Astley was her friend, Philip Webb, partner to William Morris and a key artist in the Arts & Craft Movement. He was also a co-founder with Morris of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. He had designed the original Arisaig House in 1863, and the bothy there. He also rebuilt Borrodale Farm and designed the steadings. These are the only buildings by Webb in Scotland and The Astley Hall is the only surviving original building, although it is possible that the four old cottages next door were also designed by Webb, or perhaps by George Jack - his protégé - who designed a few houses in Arisaig as well as the Hall’s rear wing which contained the Club Room and kitchen, added in 1910.
In 2000 the Hall was extensively and sensitively renovated by architects Simpson & Brown. It was funded with the help of SCVO’s Millennium Lottery grant for village halls, with assistance from Historic Scotland, Scottish Executive, The Highland Council, Lochaber Enterprise, the Crofters Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage (now NatureScot), and especially the people of Arisaig who raised £47,000 - with the total cost of renovation being £450,000.
Contributed by Ann Lamont of Arisaig
More information on visiting the area can be found here.